Now the name of Android 5.0 has been confirmed and a release date has been given, what’s actually new in Android 5.0? The biggest thing for users and the headline change of Android 5.0 is something Google is calling Material Design. There are, however, many little things that are new and arriving on Android devices in the coming months, and we’ll detail some of the notable ones here.
The biggest change to Android in version 5.0 – also known as Lollipop – is Material, Android’s new design language. Material is full of bold colours, and is designed to work across all screen sizes, from your wrist to your TV. It is designed to be responsive and have consistent lighting, shadows and motion, as well as putting focus on images and what’s important.
Android has in the past been praised for its excellent notification system, however in Android 5.0 the improvements to the notification system make the old system seem primitive in contrast. Notifications now learn from you and are prioritized based on how you’ve dealt with notifications in the past. There are some presets, such as the type of notification and who it is from, and the notification shade now appears on the lock screen with Google implementing sensitivity levels to help protect user privacy. There’s three levels of sensitivity, one level has no privacy added to it, meaning you can see the notification and the notification actions on the lock screen. For example, if a tweet rolls in you’ll be able to see and take an action on that notification. Such as retweet it, favourite it or even reply. The next level of sensitivity is that it will just show the app the notification is from but not the content of the notification. The final level is a secret notification, a notification that does not appear on the lockscreen or on the status bar and it is only visible when you unlock the device and pull down the notification shade. The final improvement to notifications is heads up notifications. This means the notification will appear above whatever you’re doing, and you can take action on that notification without being interrupted from what you’re doing. For example if you’re on a game and a call comes in, you can decide whether to accept or reject that call without leaving the game.
As well as notification improvements, quick settings has been improved in Android 5.0, such as a few more controls, for example torch, screen orientation, screencasting and brightness.
Android has been optimised further to improve battery life on your device thanks to Project Volta (as it was called at I/O 2014) which brings a new job scheduler API. This means apps can schedule tasks to be done whilst your device is charging, such as updating apps, caching content for offline usage, and other tasks that are either power intensive or are for lack of a better word unimportant. Other improvements include a battery saving mode that can on average make a device last 90 minutes longer. Furthermore stock Android will also be getting an estimated usage time from the current charge, although this is already built into some Android devices such as those produced by Sony, it’s nice to see it coming to core Android.
General media has also been improved, for example stock Android can now output 4K content. There’s a whole new camera API bringing RAW support, touch metering and a massive improvement to image quality overall. Other new features include USB audio input and output, and support for up to 7.1 sound channels and mixing.
On supported devices you’ll be able to wake your device with “OK Google” or just a tap, even when the device has its screen off. This means that if you’re driving your car and you get lost, you can ask Google to find directions without the need to touch your phone.
Finally in Android 5.0 Google has really improved privacy and device sharing. Tablets already had multi-users and some quite robust controls for content, and what the user can do but now this also comes to mobile devices. Furthermore it now comes with a guest mode and something called “screen pinning” meaning you can share what’s on your screen without sharing the rest of your phone. There’s nothing worse than when you hand your phone to someone to show them a photo and they begin to scroll through the rest of your pictures.